Cutting Up a Little

“You don’t suppose I put the knife someplace I typically don’t?” Alf said.

“What knife?” I said.

“You know, the knife,” Alf said.

“You have so many.”

“No I don’t.”

“You have the one for scaling fish, the one for carving wood, the one for cutting down outgrowth on the bushes, and the one you use for cutting grilled steak,” I said.

“That’s not the knife I mean.”

“Then I can’t help you,” I said.

“Clearly,” Alf said.

“Have you tried looking where you keep the dog’s things?” I said.

“Why would it be there?”

“You take it with you on your walks with him.”

“Why would I do that?”

“You said you never know when you have to defend yourself from rattlesnakes, runaway horses, and lost turtles,” I said.

“I said that?”

“No, I made it up. But it sounded good, didn’t it?”

Calvin says, “And slobbering dogs looking for attention.”

 

 

Real vs Fake

Alf came home this morning with a bagful of bagels.

“Were those bagels boiled and then baked, like the real thing?” I asked.

“I don’t know. They just looked good.”

“Now that you’ve eaten one, what do you think?” I said.

“It was light and crispy.”

“A dead giveaway. I fake bagel, it wasn’t boiled.”

“What’s the difference?”

“A real bagel is crunchy and shiny on the outside, chewy on the inside. There’s weight to it.”

“Since when have you become a connoisseur of bagels?” Alf said.

“Since my first trip to New York, years ago when I sunk my teeth into a pumpernickel bagel piled high with green olive cream cheese that oozed out with every bite. I’ve been spoiled ever since.”

“You’ve been spoiled by more than bagels my dear.”

Calvin says, “I’m soft on the outside and weighty on the inside. I wouldn’t pass for a real bagel, but you could make me one with lots of smoked salmon, thank you, please.”

 

A Stranger on the Call

I couldn’t understand the man on the phone.

“What did you say? There’s too much noise in the background,” I said.

“Is this better?” he asked.

“No, now I hear a screaming child. Are you on the street?”

“In the market, on aisle 7.”

“What’s aisle 7?”

“Bed pans, medicine, and cotton balls,” he said.

“In a market?”

“They cater to all needs,” he said.

“Well, in that case I need something for my lower back, my toes, and my right arm. It all hurts,” I said. Then I realized I wasn’t sure who I was talking to.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Alf, your husband. Remember me? You sent me to the store.”

“You’re in the wrong store, I need you in a pharmacy,” I said.

“This is the pharmacy. Do you think I would find spinach and papaya here?”

“Yes, in aisle 8,” I said.

Cavin says, “And in aisle 1 you’ll find the doggie treats. Right as you step into the store. They know how to position the important stuff.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Chameleon Life

I grew up in three cultures – British, Mexican and Lebanese. Some days I don’t know who I am, which I’m told is normal for someone whose roots go all over the map. The customs and foods and quirks unique to each one requires a passport. Later in life I discovered I was also Jewish, so I added that to my identity profile. Being Jewish explained a lot. It informed my searching for home. My nomad existence. Never feeling I’ve settled down with any one particular place or group of people. It explained my love of Jewish music, especially the minor key.

Over the years, I’ve learned to live with the tension of identity. I’m able to live in a Latin culture as well as a British one. I put them on like a coat. I equally relish a plate of tacos as lamb kebab with hummus. There are days I need a steaming cup of yerba mate tea for comfort, but there are other times when only a mug of cinnamon coffee will do.

I’ve spent more time in the United States than anywhere else now. I understand the language, the people, and the traditions, but there are days when my heart longs to hear Spanish, my native tongue, to feel the slower pace of life, and enjoy the connections to family that go back centuries to when they too came from other parts of the world.

Calvin says, “I’m glad my roots only go back to Napa, the beagle-wine producing region of the world.”

Take a Little, Add a Little

I live in my garden these days with the squirrels, the ravens, the bees, and the occasional butterfly. The butterfly bush is exploding with flowers, ready for a butterfly invasion, but none have arrived. Maybe they’re staying away and quarantining on eucalyptus trees in Pacific Grove. Or maybe they got smart and flew to Mexico instead. So I turned my attention to the house.

I’m cleaning out clutter and distributing it to friends who want more. There are people who always want another book or music CD. I’m happy to oblige. The vision for the house is to give it a minimalist look, with only the essentials in their place. Of course I’ll have to do something about the dog’s seasonal food dishes, multi-colored leashes, and hypo-allergenic beds. He has as many possessions as we do. With all these, he still prefers to eat at our table and sleep in our bed.

Then there’s the garage. It’s filled with camping gear we no longer use, old shoes for when it rains and gets muddy, hiking jackets and hats, and a bowlful of golf balls Alf brings home from his hikes. What golf balls are doing scattered on the mountain defies the imagination. And why Alf picks them up and brings them home is a mystery. He’s not a golfer.

“I’ll give them to someone who plays the game,” he says.

“We don’t know any golfers,” I remind him.

“There’s always the future.”

And so it goes. I clear, Alf fills it up. The story of our lives.

Calvin says, “Hey, what about the ice skates you never use? Maybe there’s an Olympian in the neighborhood.”

 

 

 

 

Survival Plans

I dug it up. It had been struggling to survive for years. I re-planted it in a pot that was hanging from the apricot tree, except there is no apricot tree, just the trunk, which now holds several potted plants. Alf and I killed the apricot tree by pruning it too much. What did we know? We’re not farmers. The transplanted plant should be worried. We don’t know what we’re doing.

Our garden plants grit their teeth behind our backs. They hold whispered meetings at midnight, while we sleep, planning how to survive in spite of what we do to them.

The oleanders are the senior members, well established after many battles, and are now too big to die. They’ve gone through the worst of it, from neglect to over-watering. They now give advice to the youngest inhabitants. “Keep your water reserves if you want to live,” they say.

The roses are faring a bit better because they’re pretty. Beauty wins out every time. It’s what saves them from death. Nobody likes to see a withered bush, it speaks ill of the owners.

The lavender and rosemary have the best chance of survival. They’ve been bred to withstand heat and drought.

The jade, the newcomers, beat their chests. “We’ll outlive you all,” they say with a laugh.

The citrus trees roll their eyes. “We’ve been here 80 years, and we’ve seen it all. If it wasn’t for the rainy season we’d be gone, and so will you, so don’t be cocky because that will be your demise,” they say.

Calvin says, “You’ve murdered a nursery-full since I’ve been here. I’d have a warrant for your arrest.”

 

Nature Speaks

What is the answer to all the evening stars in their places, shining bright. Who keeps them there?

And the flowers, does anyone tell them there’s a quarantine on, and they’re not supposed to burst forth from their places?

The cats don’t care, neither do the dogs.

The ivy continues to crawl up the fence. The rosemary and lavender give out their fragrance. The climbing roses and the fruit trees grow and shine their glory.

Here’s a recipe for contentment. To do what you’re made for, in good times and bad times.  Both give equal opportunities to stand out and be beautiful.

Calvin says, “Now I know you’ve lost it. You need some people time.”

 

 

 

Life on Wheels

During my escape from the house last weekend, I noticed what looked like a cooler on six wheels driving on the sidewalk in the center of town I was in. It was white and carried a golf-like flag to let people know it was coming toward them or behind them. It chirped and beeped. Clearly someone, hiding behind a tree, was navigating this contraption.

It turned out it came from the local market and it was their delivery system. Inside the cooler I’m sure there were cut-up veggies, a cluster of red grapes, gorgonzola cheese, sesame seed, gluten-free crackers, and of course lots of Chardonnay on ice. This made perfect sense in the middle of Silicon Valley. Where else would you find a robot delivering your dinner? Now if it cooks, serves and cleans-up, then I’m in.

Alf says, “It should also sort through old tech books and re-arrange the garage.”

I see the many uses it could have like getting the dog to the groomers, picking up the dry cleaning, going to the mall for that cute outfit that was on sale, walking your children home, mowing the lawn, and keeping you company if you’re desperate. I don’t know how many languages it speaks, but that could be an added feature. It should also play jazz and be able to read Shakespeare and Hebrew.

Calvin says, “No way you’d shove me into that thing. I’d look ridiculous with my ears flapping.”

 

Hair Day

On Saturday I went to see my hairdresser. It was a clandestine trip. We parked two blocks away, put on our masks, I looked like a pirate in my red bandana, hair blowing in the wind, and walked to the salon. It was in darkness. My hairdresser had shut the blinds so nobody could see in, he also had the lights turned off. He gave us the secret knock – three and a half raps on the door, like in the movies. He opened up, and we squeezed in. He was wearing a mask and looked thinner than before the quarantine.

“An operation like this requires a drink and a piano,” Alf said.

“And your wife is Ingrid Bergman,” my hairdresser said.

“Of all the salons around here, we walk into yours,” Alf said.

“Play it again, Sam.” My hairdresser turned up the music on his computer.

“We’ll always have Carmel,” I said.

“Here’s looking at you, kid. What do you want done to your hair?” he said.

“Whatever you want, since this is what every hairdresser wants to hear,” I said.

“Ingrid, this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship,” he said.

“And when you’re done, work on my head, we must look good for our transit back home,” Alf said.

Calvin says, “I’ll round up the usual suspects and walk off into the sunset.” 

 

 

A Pitiful Reality

Coming back from my two-mile walk in my backyard, not that my backyard is two miles long, it’s not, but I walk back and forth for two miles, I realized what a pitiful sight I am. If anyone were to see me in my sweatpants, T-shirt, no make-up – what for the birds? – they’d say I needed a respite in the local psyche ward. I have forgotten to dress normally, bathe daily, and wear something colorful. Is this what retirement looks like? No, this is what being cooped up at home without the possibility of parole looks like during the pandemic. When restrictions get lifted I will need training in how to be a human being again and a functioning member of society. I will have to wear a bra again! That thought revolts me. I will need to be pleasing, kind and thoughtful to others. I’ve had a vacation from that. And eight hours in an office again when I’ve enjoyed squirrels, birds and flowers as my office, I can’t bear the thought.

Not everything about the lockdown has been nasty as the media wants you to believe. It’s been peaceful. The air has never been fresher. The quiet of the streets allows me to hear the honking of overhead geese, the barking of dogs on a walk, the clamoring of the garbage truck on its pickup runs. We’re making more garbage than ever before. We’re buying and cooking and eating and throwing away. Just today I saw my neighbor throw out his prized flamingo.

Calvin says, “You’re nuts alright. Flamingo? That was a pink elephant.”